BANGOR — It was fitting that Marc Zaharchuk clutched a small replica of the Paul Bunyan statue in his large hands Sunday afternoon.
Much as the mythical lumberjack was the undisputed king of the forest, Husson University’s sophomore center stood tall and dominated play in the paint Sunday afternoon.
Zaharchuk poured in 23 points and snatched nine rebounds, leading the Eagles to a 76-62 victory over the University of New England in the championship game of the 43rd Paul Bunyan tournament.
“It was huge for us,” said the 6-foot-10 center from Richmond, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. He was 7-for-8 from the floor and 9-for-12 from the foul line Sunday.
“We had to use two people to guard him,” said UNE coach Jason Mulligan. “He’s really improved. He’s a threat inside on the boards and scoring now. We tried to limit him as much as we could.”
Joining Zaharchuk on the all-tournament team were teammate Josh Jones of Jefferson, Chas Rentrope and Marcus Winn of UNE, Kevin Loiselle of UMaine-Fort Kent and Rick Lupo of UMaine-Machias.
In Sunday’s consolation contest, the University of Maine-Fort Kent took advantage of its superior size and athleticism while pulling away for a 92-55 victory over Sunrise Conference rival UMaine-Machias.
Husson (5-1) won the championship by manufacturing a 23-point, first-half lead, then holding the determined Nor’easters at arm’s length. The Eagles had advanced with Saturday’s 90-65 win over UMM.
Zaharchuk scored eight of the Eagles’ first 10 points to open the contest to spark Husson to a 35-12 advantage.
UNE, which missed its first 10 shots, then rallied to within 10 at halftime (40-30) and eventually got within six (43-37), but the Nor’easters were unable to make it all the way back against the balanced Eagles.
“We really came out not ready to play and they hit us good to start out with,” said Mulligan, whose team edged UMFK 63-57 Saturday. “To show heart and get it down to six was good against Husson, because they’ve got a great team this year.”
Uhrin tossed in 22 points and Josh Jones of Jefferson contributed 16 points, 11 rebounds and five assists for Husson, which shot 43 percent from the field and outrebounded UNE 40-29.
Winn, a junior guard, connected for a game-high 25 points, hitting five 3-pointers, to lead the Nor’easters. Rentrope added 13 points and six rebounds.
UNE (2-7) shot only 32 percent and committed 22 turnovers.
Zharchuk set the tone early, scoring from underneath and making two free throws in the first two minutes. After Jones scored off a back-door cut and a feed from Uhrin, Zaharchuk added two foul shots and a rebound hoop to make it 10-0 only 4 1/2 minutes into the game.
“Over the last three games, we’ve done a really good job of getting the ball into the interior,” said Husson coach Warren Caruso. “The other guys are doing a good job getting (Zaharchuk) the ball.”
Zaharchuk picked up two quick fouls and played only five minutes in the half, but Uhrin buried two 3-pointers during a subsequent 10-1 flurry that put Husson on top 35-12 with 6:57 remaining.
UNE responded by spreading the floor and slowing the tempo as Rentrope and Winn each scored seven points during a 14-4 run to end the half.
The Nor’easters later closed to within six on a Jordan Stinglen basket with 15:40 left, but Zaharchuk scored five points to fuel an 8-3 spurt that pushed the lead back to 11.
“They’re pretty scrappy, they’re well-coached and their guys play hard,” Uhrin said of the Nor’easters.
“We played well defensively. I think for the most part we make them work pretty hard for (their points).”
In the consolation game, Kevin Loiselle poured in 19 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and posted four assists and three steals to lead UMFK to victory.
Manny Odugbela also scored 19 points with three assists and three steals, while Yoshives Belizaire (nine rebounds), Emiliano Void, Pablo Llamas and Jan Brylowski tallied eight points apiece.
Coach Eric Werntgen’s Bengals shot 53 percent from the field as they were able to get the ball inside against the smaller Clippers. UMFK also grabbed a 53-30 rebounding advantage.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys, I lost seven off last year’s team, so I’m still trying to mold them,” Werntgen said.
UMFK hounded UMM out of a 1-2-2 zone defense and with full-court pressure that helped generate many of the Clippers’ 20 turnovers.
“We’ve got a lot of size this year and we’re struggling getting those guys into foul trouble and that’s what happened (Saturday) against UNE,” Werntgen said, “so went in with a game plan where we were going to press them, full-court zone, and then drop back into our half-court stuff.”
Zach Pope paced the Clippers with 15 points, Lupo of Machias netted nine and Zach Armstrong of Waldoboro chipped in with eight points and 11 rebounds. Will Lewis added seven points and eight assists.
UMM was forced to attempt numerous 3-pointers but shot only 26 percent (10-for-38) from beyond the arc.
Down 3-0, UMFK scored 14 unanswered points, including six by Pablo Llamas, to take a 14-3 lead less than six minutes into the contest. The Bengals never trailed by fewer than eight after that and poured it on with 50 second-half points, including a highlight-reel dunk by Loiselle off an ally-oop pass from Odugbela.